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When Packaging Becomes the Product

Not long ago, ASI’s Andy Cohen wrote a piece about the importance of packaging and how it can make all the difference in a sale. In it, Cohen argued that promotional product buying habits are different today than they were before, and that consumers are more wont to purchase items presented in unique and fun ways.

“A T-shirt shouldn’t just be handed out to a promotional recipient,” Cohen wrote. “It should come in a box with a note, or it should be compressed into a unique shape, or it should be inside of a hollowed-out soda can.”

Cohen used Lay’s potato chips as an example of a brand doing packaging right. Their promotional campaign allowing people the ability to customize their own bags of Lay’s crunchers not only helped generate huge sales, but left a lasting impression on consumers.

Today, Frito-Lay – the same company that owns Lay’s – is at it again with another packaging gem, this one created specifically for the Super Bowl. The chip maker’s sister brand Tostitos is launching a special-edition, high-tech version of its packaging that can detect alcohol on your breath and warn you not to drive by displaying a red steering wheel on the front of the bag.

But that’s not all it can do.

If you’re too inebriated to dial for an Uber, the bag will also do that for you simply by tapping it with your smartphone. And if that’s not enough to dissuade a DUI, Tostitos is offering a $10-off coupon for the Uber ride during and after the big game.

So, just to re-cap: These Tostitos bags are fun and interactive, are equipped with smartphone technology, and offer a redeemable coupon. When you add all that up it results in quite a memorable experience.

I’m sure this level of high-tech packaging isn’t cheap to produce, but these bags are limited-edition and won’t be available at retail which means Frito-Lay only had to invest enough for a single event. That said, it’s the packaging that’s generating the buzz, and therefore it’ll be the packaging that ultimately connects with the consumer and sells more of this product.

Will people still eat Tostitos for the Super Bowl? Sure, but how many party-goers would love to blow into a bag and see it light up red while getting 10% off an Uber ride? I would, and I don’t even eat Tostitos.

Which brings me to the point. Great packaging like this creates a great user experience. And, as Andy mentioned in his article back in 2015, isn’t that what promotional campaigns are all about?